Since the city of Sanctuary is the only real town in the game, the developers were able to pack it full of interesting details and a large cast of characters. You get a few quests as you enter town that will steer you into meeting these people.
Trivia: This voice actor also does the (english) voice of Kyoya Ootori from Ouran High School Host Club, and Scar from Fullmetal Alchemist. This role is... not like those other two.
Technically we met Sir Hammerlock during the previous chapter, but I was too busy complaining about pacing to introduce him. He is both a zoologist and a big game hunter, which is kind of like being a marine biologist and a whale hunter. Sure you can be both of those things at the same time, but people generally… aren’t. But this underscores two important points:
- The wildlife on Pandora is crazy dangerous, to the point where a zoologist has to be able to slay creatures just to do his job.
- Everyone on this planet is a little crazy, even the scientists. No, especially the scientists.
He’s one of my favorite characters in the series and I’m always glad when one of his ridiculous jobs of questionable scientific merit comes up.
Don`t feel bad about the patient, he`s a bad guy or whatever.
Zed is a character built around one joke: He’s a doctor who somehow lost his medical license on a crazy lawless world where murder is about as scandalous as flipping someone off in traffic. The joke is the sheer absurdity of this situation: Who is in charge of medical licenses out in this anarchic wasteland? What could he have possibly done that would be severe enough to have his license revoked? Who would possibly care enough to punish him if he continued to practice medicine without one? Why does he maintain a clinic if he’s not allowed to practice medicine, and why do people go to it?
It`s not his refund policy that`s the problem, it`s his trade-in prices. He`s basically the Gamestop of firearms.
Marcus is a strange one. He narrates the introduction movies. He runs all the gun vending machines. He’s portrayed as this grubby amoral businessman. And since he’s a weapons merchant on a lawless world of violence and will sell weapons to anyone, I guess that’s a fair appraisal.
In the first game Marcus kept calling up the player every few hours and asking if they could be “partners” once the vault was opened. The gist is that he was going to help the player sell whatever treasure they found. Eventually he started assuming you’d accepted his offer. It felt like some sort of plot was being developed, but the whole idea was quietly dropped before the end of the game.
There was also a conversation where he confided that crazy-pants Tannis hadn’t used the commerce grid in years, meaning he had no idea how she was getting supplies. Since she lived all alone in a wasteland full of danger, this seemed to imply that she was getting supplies from some unknown party. This plot thread also didn’t go anywhere.
Now he’s just the voice of the vending machines and occasional bestower of sidequests.
Earl was a crazy recluse who gave nonsense quests in Borderlands 1. This time around, he’s running the “Black Market”, where he sells inventory upgrades. Sometimes you’ll get a few chunks of eridium as rare drops, and sometimes you’ll get a few as a quest reward. You can give them to Crazy earl to expand your carrying capacity for different ammo types.
This is the perfect use for Earl. It ensures there’s always an excuse to keep this beloved character around in future games, and it lets us have interactions with him without needing to awkwardly work his antics into the main plot.
“Since I’m protecting him, why doesn’t Earl give me these much-needed upgrades for free? Where does he get this stuff? And what’s he doing with all this eridium, anyway?”
The answer, of course, is, “Get lost, jerkwad!”
The Fate of Helena Pierce
As you listen to the audiologs in the quest, you discover that Pierce was riding a train through the snowy wastes. I wanted to do a "Snowpiercer" joke here, but I couldn`t make it work.
Let’s talk about a character who isn’t in this game, despite the fact that she was a prominent character in Borderlands 1. Pierce was the narrator in the original grim-n-gritty trailer for Borderlands 1 and the administrator of the only real town in the game.
It turns out Handsome Jack killed her in the gap between Borderlands 1 and 2, and had a laugh while doing it. For me, Pierce was always a symbol for the original, much darker version of the game. I’ve always assumed that she was a central character in Dark Borderlands, and was sidelined once her design began to clash with the new tone. Her dialog was always serious, and her disfigured face hinted at a past that was brutal in a not-funny way.
I’m sure the writer killed her off as a way of tying up loose threads from the previous game (while also building up our villain) but I’ve also sort of viewed this quest as Borderlands 2 shedding the last of the leftover baggage from Dark Borderlands. Shep Sanders is forgotten. Lucky is dead. The bleak characters are all gone, the strange tonal dissonance is resolved, and the series is now committed to action comedy.
Well, all except for one last holdout…
Saying random nonsense is SO crazy!
The Borderlands 2 writing is a huge improvement over the writing in Borderlands 1. The tone is more consistent, player action is better justified, the plot exists, the villain is properly established, the jokes are both more frequent and more consistent, the stakes are better conveyed, and the characters are more vibrant. It’s better in every way… except for how Patricia Tannis is handled.
Tannis is the last of the ugly seams between Dark Borderlands and the Borderlands we got. She’s an odd one because she’s a (present day) goofy character with a (backstory) of dark misery. She can’t really be written out of the story as easily as the others, since she’s more or less in charge of all vault study and exposition.
This new take on Tannis doesn’t work for me. I get that the previous version of Tannis was a mixed bag. Sometimes she was roughly sane and sometimes she was nutty. Most of her humor was based on confusingly constructed sentences. In the first game she’s got a line that goes something like:
“They took the artifact from me and killed my dog, which is the third and final piece of the vault key.”
It wasn’t laugh-out-loud funny, but it was kind of amusing and it basically worked. Here in the sequel I have no idea what they’re doing with her. When we meet her in Borderlands 2, we find her recording the following message for Roland:
“As I’ve said Roland, now that Jack has the vault key it’s only a matter of time until he opens the vault. Also, I require a new ventilator. This lab smells of bacon. Bacon is for sycophants and products of incest.”
I realize I’m coming dangerously close to reviewing individual jokes, and there’s no way that argument can go my way. But I don’t actually see a joke there. It’s strange, yes. But it comes off like chef random dialog. And that line is supposed to be her big introduction to the audience?
Also, her character is wildly inconsistent. One bit establishes her as terrified of people to the point of paralysis, but other times she’s more than happy to talk. There’s quest text that refers to her as “an introvert with Aspergers” and neither of those things describes her in any way, much less act as defining attributes.
I have no idea what the writer was trying to do with this character, but unless their goal was “confuse the audience” then I don’t think it worked.
It’s not that this hurts the game or anything. Tannis is just here to explain the various space magic conceits to us and we have very few interactions with her. I’m not bringing this up because it’s a big deal, I’m bringing it up because it’s really curious. What happened to this character and why was she handled so differently from the others?
The only thing Roland hates more than Handsome Jack is the way people around him are always making "Turret Syndrome" jokes.
Roland has a new voice actor, a new accent, and a new personality. In Borderlands 1 he was Mr. Enthusiasm. He was always excited to shoot a guy, level up, or even just get into a car. Here in the sequel he’s got a low voice and he’s stoic, stiff, and awkward.
If I had to guess, I’d say the real world leaked into his design. Everyone referred to Roland as “the boring one” because he didn’t have space magic powers, he didn’t have a killer bird, and he wasn’t a seven foot tall pillar of angry muscle that could punch bandits into red mist. He was just a guy with a gun who could sometimes summon another gun. He seemed a little pedestrian compared to his more fantastical teammates. But then somehow his reputation as “the one with the boring powers” became”the one with the boring personality”.
Maybe his personality changed because they couldn’t get the original voice actor to reprise the role and they figured it was easier to just re-cast and re-write? I don’t know. On the upside, he’s paradoxically a lot funnier now that he’s more boring. When the other three Borderlands 1 alumni arrive in the story later on, his social awkwardness will make for a lot of fun dialog with them.
I strongly suspect that Scooter’s original design was inspired by Cooter from the Dukes of Hazzard. Yes, he’s just a round face with automotive grease and a trucker cap, which isn’t exactly a design that jumps off the page. But combined with the accent, the background, and the name similarity, it really does seem like Scooter is either an homage, a reference, or a rip-off. I mean, just look at Cooter:
Click to see a clip of Cooter in Dukes of Hazzard
In the first game he was an uncouth mechanic that pinged a few redneck stereotypes. He was dim and didn’t seem to be particularly gifted.
Here in the sequel his redneck shtick has been cranked up to 11 and he’s a mechanical savant that can hotwire a long-dormant spaceship to make a city fly.
When you finally get into Sanctuary, Angel gives you a really important line of dialog. She explains that Sanctuary was built atop (or from) an old Dahl mining ship of the same name. However, you must stop in the courtyard just as you enter the city if you want to hear this. If you just keep jogging towards the current waypoint marker then Scooter’s introduction will start and you’ll never hear the line about the city being partly made of spaceship. This is an awful line to miss, since later on Scooter makes the city fly and this is the only dialog to explain why that isn’t ridiculous and random.
Sanctuary does not look like a spaceship. It’s made of concrete and there aren’t any spaceship-looking parts around. It’s got a paved road leading to it and it seems to have things like concrete sidewalks and other non-spaceship parts. There’s nothing to visually hint that this was ever anything like a spaceship. Scooter is a car mechanic, so having him make a giant city of pavement and concrete fly without explanation is just too outlandish, even for a world as crazy as this one.
As far as I know, this is the only place in the entire game where someone explains that Sanctuary was built out of a Dahl spaceship, and you must stop in this courtyard to hear it.
This is a really minor complaint, but it would be easy to fix. The Angel line should trigger without fail, and Scooter ought to follow up with a reminder so we do a kind of rule of three thing. I bring this up because the rest of the story is usually really good about this kind of stuff. I wonder if somewhere on the cutting room floor is a line from Scooter explaining the origins of the city, and that line was left out or forgotten for some reason? This section is actually pretty thick with people talking as you crisscross the city on errands, and perhaps this important bit of exposition was left out to leave more room for his jokes about incest and bloodshed.
The problem right now is that Roland is missing. He was supposed to meet us here in Sanctuary, but he went out on an errand and never came back. For some reason, Scooter thinks the thing to do is make the city fly. I’m not sure how that was going to help. If Roland came back he’d be stuck on the ground, looking into the crater where his city used to be and wondering how to get home. Meanwhile, everyone else would be stuck in the city with no leader, no plan, and no way to get groceries. Great. Your city is flying. What now, dumbasses?
So it’s perhaps for the best that Scooter can’t get the city to fly just yet.